Australian Painter and Photographer, Artist Russell Drysdale

Today we are going to take a look at an iconic Australian artist. Perhaps one of the things about Russell Drysdale that makes him very good for us to look at is because he was also a photographer. He spent time driving around the outback of Australia taking photos to help with his paintings.

Who was he

This is a short description of him from Wikipedia

“Sir George Russell Drysdale, AC (7 February 1912 – 29 June 1981), also known as “Tass Drysdale”, was an Australian artist. He won the prestigious Wynne Prize for Sofala in 1947, and represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1954. He was influenced by abstract and surrealist art, and “created a new vision of the Australian scene as revolutionary and influential as that of Tom Roberts”.

In Australia he is considered one of our best and we do love him. Drysdale is one of those painters that most people love and often can recognise at least one of his paintings.

Iconic Painter

He painted us as we were at the time. While it is almost cartoonish or impressionistic, you can still see what outback Australia was like.

You will find his paintings in most of the top galleries and many people have prints on their walls.

People in his paintings

When you look at his paintings you can see who the people were. They were ordinary, everyday people who lived in these rural areas.

One thing that I admire is how he also put indigenous people into his paintings. Especially at a time when most of Australia was trying to pretend they didn’t exist. Mind you they are wearing western style clothes.

The Photographer

Though most people know about his paintings, Drysdale was also a photographer. He traveled around the outback of Australia working and taking photos to help with his paintings.

Drysdale’s use of colour photography as an aide-mémoire was the subject of an exhibition in 1987 at the NGV and publication which reveals in previously unknown photographic imagery this method of working and his stylisation in interpretation of subject matter and specific locations.

Christine Wallace suggests that Drysdale “was the visual poet of that passive, all-encompassing despair that endless heat and drought induces”

I have the book of the photographs and have photographed some of the pages for you. It gives you an insight into what Australia was like during the 1950’s, a time many have said was the best time in our history. Not sure that is true, but there you have it.

The Ordinary

This, to me, is what he was about. The normal Joe Blow that lives in town or out on a farm. It was about the every day.

He used those images to create his paintings. It also means there is a great photo history of what those places looked like during the 50’s.

His Legacy

It is wonderful. He showed up powerful women, women who didn’t take crap. He showed us the larrikin. Through his photos and paintings we see how life was back then. Drysdale gave us all a special gift in a way and I love taking looking at his images, both the paintings and the photos.



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  1. Are the photographs from the book Drysdale, Photographer by Jennie Boddington?

    1. I don’t know if anyone really knows, I think the photos are more a record of what was there, rather than being used for the paintings.

  2. The occasional introduction of an artist, painter or photographer has always carried a special attraction for me. This post on the famous Australian artist Drysdale had many interesting details of life in the Australian outback. I also enjoyed viewing his amazing paintings. Thank you, Leanne!

    1. That is good to hear Peter. The outback does seem like an amazing place, I would love to visit there one day, I will get there eventually. You’re welcome Peter, so good to hear you enjoyed it.

  3. There was a wonderful book by Drysdale and zoologist Jock Marshall called “Journey among Men”. Drawings and photos from the Outback. Worth tracking down secondhand.
    Anthea Fleming

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